Leaving Bullet Point Items Lowercase

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 5, 2021)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


Charlotte notes that, in Word, the first letter of a bullet point item is always made uppercase, automatically. This is not OK because a bullet point is not always the beginning of a sentence. In fact, one sentence can be composed with a series of bullet points, the end of the sentence coming only with or after the last bullet point. Charlotte wonders how she can convince Word to leave the first letter of a bullet point item as lowercase.

As you are typing your document and you come to what will be a bulleted list, you can do the following:

  1. Create your first bullet point item as you normally would. When you press Enter at the end of the item, Word will automatically capitalize the first letter of the item.
  2. Immediately press Ctrl+Z. Word undoes the capitalization.
  3. Continue typing items for your bulleted list; Word should not capitalize any of them as you press Enter between each.

It seems that Word, in determining whether to capitalize a bullet point item, checks the previous item in the document. If it is not capitalized, then it will not automatically capitalize the one just created.

There are some caveats to this. If the previous item including some punctuation that makes Word think it constituted a sentence (such as a period, exclamation mark, question mark, etc.), then Word will again automatically capitalize the next item in the list. If this happens, you can again follow the steps above to undo the capitalization and continue with your list.

Remember that Word looks to the last list item to determine whether to capitalize the current list item. This is true even if the last list item was a few pages ago. This means that if you are typing a new bulleted list and there are earlier bulleted lists in the document, then for the first item of the brand-new list, Word looks at the last item of the previous bulleted list to make its determination. If that earlier list item was in lowercase (and didn't contain any sentence-ending punctuation), then the list item you are typing will not be automatically capitalized.

Note, as well, that even if a bulleted list item does not mark the beginning of a sentence, it is possible that the item should be capitalized. For instance, the bulleted list item may start with a proper noun which should, of course, be capitalized. Word doesn't make a determination of sentence structure; it simply looks at the capitalization of the previous list item to determine if the current list item should be capitalized or not.

Finally, if you want to make sure that Word will not capitalize most bulleted list items—except those where the one you are typing follows a list item that starts with a proper noun, as described above—then you can follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Proofing at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoCorrect tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Clear the Capitalize First Letter of Sentences check box.
  7. Click on OK.

This turns off most all of Word's automatic capitalization efforts, whether in a bulleted list item or in regular prose. This may be more of a limitation than you want, so you should only take this step if you are sure it fits your needs.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13867) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is seven minus 7?

2021-06-05 10:34:55


Actually, the automatic capitalization happens when you finish typing in the first word (followed by a space, tab, comma, other punctuation or <ENTER>) and does not necessarily wait until you reach the end of the item. You need to press Ctrl-Z immediately after the automatic capitalization happens.
You can still change the capitalization of the first letter manually at any other time and achieve the same behaviour , i.e., prevent the word from capitalizing the first letters in consecutive bulleted paragraphs.

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